Karine Polwart‘s Scottish Songbook is a fantastic way to conclude the Celtic Connections, a medley of music connected to Scotland and cherished by Karine herself and the audience alike. A medley of songs that Karine Polwart and her band perform, with their own twist, she encourages that her fans join in too. Ranging from The Waterboys’ Whole of the Moon to Mary’s Prayer, which was composed by Gary Clark, there was a whole introduction to music I was not entirely acquainted with and for that it was great, and to top it all off the performances were spot on.

Back in 2010 Karine Polwart, Scottish singer/songwriter, along with other folk musicians performed at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall the Scottish Songbook Celtic Connections gig, which saw her and the likes of Kenny Anderson and Emma Pollock give their own interpretations of songs by Ivor Cutler and Annie Lennox. In 2018 it reappeared at the Edinburgh International Festival with Karine and her band performing the medley of Scottish history, and Celtic Connections have this year decided that they want it back, this time in The Old Fruitmarket. Quite evidently sold out, the masses flocked to this venue to catch Karine Polwart add her own resonance to the songs of the past.

Beginning with Whole of the Moon, she swiftly performed one “for the millennials” catering for those younger in the crowd, The Mother We Share by super successful Glasgow band, Chvrches. An evening of music richness, Karine treated us to such a wonderful playlist of Scottish songs, which made you realise the heritage that Scotland holds on that front (that’s if you missed the recent Rip It Up exhibition). She treated us to covers from The Tourists, Strawberry Switchblade’s Since Yesterday, apt for the concept of the evening, as it really was a nostalgic trip through Scotland’s musical past. With her brother Stephen Polwart on guitar, Graeme Smillie alternating between bass and keys, and Admiral Fallow’s Louis Abbott on guitar and occasionally drums, Inge Thomson on backing vocals, accordion and synthesizer, and Calum McIntyre on drums.

Shining a light on the talents of her band, Karine by no means hogged the microphone, allowing Inge to sing pitch perfect lead vocals on Massive Attack’s Teardrop (very different vocals to those of Cocteau Twins’ Liz Fraser), and Louis Abbott to perform Ivor Cutler track, Women of the World. Indulging us with a Blue Nile track, From Rags To Riches, there is very much a folky vibe to the evening aside from the moment that she performs Claire Groagan’s I Could Be Happy, one to get the crowd dancing, and that it certainly did. There are moments that she weaves together renowned Scottish tracks, one that is particularly notable is her cover of Bronski Beat’s Smalltown Boy and the Eurythmics’ Here Comes The Rain. And there was a spine-tingling cover of Gerry Rafferty’s Whatever’s Written In Your Heart, which quite simply changed the vibe of the evening. In memory of Frightened Rabbit lead vocalist, Scott Hutchison, Karine performed a transformative cover of Swim Until You Can’t See Land,  and concluded the whole evening with a beautiful version of Glasgow’s Deacon Blue track, Dignity. An enthusiastic and appreciative audience seemed more than content to end the night with this nod to the city.

For more on the Celtic Connections 2019 click here.